03 September 2010

0 humor me... (08.07.09)

so our friend c. david heymann has written a book. a whole 230 pages on jackie and bobby kennedy's secret love affair. a love affair that-- if you've read any of our friend c. david heymann's previous three books on the kennedy family or pretty much any biography written post-1989 about anyone in any way affiliated with anyone affiliated with the kennedys in the post-JFK years-- is actually not so secret.

jackie and rfk were in love!

they exchanged "poignant glances"!

ethel was pissed!

all of this we already knew.

(if you didn't, trust me. had you gone looking, it was there.)

judging from the early press, heymann's only truly new revelation over the course of these 230 pages, the only thing that might be remotely characterized as a contribution to the jackie scholarship, is that some socialite saw rfk put his hand down her pants.

hands down pants. this is what we've come to.

kennedy biography sucks and here's why. because it is a genre predominently dominated by a triumvirate of baby boomer men who have written multiple books about essentially the exact same things. they are viewed by the popular press as bastions of kennedy knowledge and are accordingly trotted out every time a kennedy kicks the bucket, but even a cursory review of their oeuvre reveals their limitations.

our friend c. david heymann has written about jackie, bobby, jackie and bobby and caroline and john. christopher anderson has covered jack and jackie, jackie after jack and caroline and john. edward klein has written about jack and jackie, jackie after jack and jackie's death. um... sound similar?

though i'm specifically coming after our friend c. david heymann here, christopher andersen (who referred to mrs. kennedy as "mommy" throughout the entirety of his 2001 caroline kennedy text) and edward klein (who single-handedly established carolyn bessette as a cokehead in an excerpt of the kennedy curse that was printed all around the world) are equally to blame for the swamp of tastelessness that has prevailed.

i began writing a kennedy biography because kennedy biographies featured the worst writing i'd ever seen. one makes allowances to a degree. while the biographical subject is alive, it's hard to have perspective. it's hard analyze anything and, if the kennedy crowd are any indication, it's equally impossible to write in anything less than overheated, psychobabble prose. but most of our people are dead, guys. they've been dead for awhile.

collectively, the kennedy biographers have exhibited a willful determination to avoid the in-depth cultural analysis i believe is so sorely needed here. they tell us jackie was important and they do not tell us why. they tell us something happened between her and the entirety of culture back in november 1963, but they do not explain what. they tell us she symbolized something, because clearly we fools need a biographer to tell us that.

and these boys! overall, the heymann/anderson/klein work is a hodge-podge of unsubstantiated gossip that is handed from one book to the next like a cherished handmade quilt. there are holes galore. bibliographies and endnotes have only just come into vogue and our friend c. david continues to lift whole pages from one biography to the next with wild abandon. there is a reason these books all sound the same.

and yes, there are interesting stories. there are glimmers of what could be. then there are hands down pants.

but really, if we're being honest and more than a little cynical, these books are not intended to tell us anything. these are not people writing now in the spirit of openness so writers of the future will be able to uncover more. no. these are people who have created an entire enterprise out of writing about kennedys because books about kennedys sell, even if they don't say a fucking thing.

this has never been more frustrating to me than now, when the new york post's write-up about jackie & bobby: a love story trumpeted c. david heymann's big source, the one who really throws the love affair out into the open, as truman capote.

our friend c. david wrote a woman named jackie in 1989 and RFK in 1998. he wrote about john and caroline in 2007. our friend c. david heymann has written three books on the kennedy family in the past 20 years and, working on the assumption that the ghost of truman capote didn't just surface to whisper in our friend c. david heymann's ear, he is only now quoting from an interview conducted with a man who died in 1984.

which, in the large scheme of things isn't that important. truman was a blabby fucker, so it's not as though his opinion here would have colored every biography that came out in the interim or every book that comes after now. but it's the principle of the matter. this idea that you can sit on pieces of an interview for decades and dole out information piecemeal as it pleases you.

it would be one thing if this were revelatory. if there were an actual reason for it. if our friend c. david heymann had willfully embargoed the salacious bits of his interview until caroline kennedy hit 52, but i imagine that is not what happened here. i imagine our friend c. david heymann just wanted to make some money.

and i resent that. i resent that these are the people who are dictating the story. i resent that they do not take that responsibility seriously. that these people, these hacks who actually lived through this thing that i did not-- this collective shift of consciousness in which a woman no one really liked became the icon of our time-- are expending their energy collecting details like hands down pants.

and i resent that still, fifty years after the fact, the only story that matters is the story of who fucked who.

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